A Bit Worried

OK, first not to worry anybody, I made it to London safely.

I arrived in Roissy early as I knew it would take longer to get through the formalities. I was right! It took about 2 hours to go through the check-in process. To make matters worst, the hostess requested I only keep my wallet with me and check-in my small black day pack. I was not very happy about this as I had heard this was only for USA-bound flights and did not think it would be enforced on flights to London. No liquids of any form, OK. But no carry-on!!! I don’t really like to part from my camera, my IPod and especially my notebook and the CDs with the pictures from my trip. I have travelled through all Middle-East and I had not to do that at any time.

Well, I didn’t want to get anybody anxious so I complied. Unfortunately, I would discover later it was a huge mistake!

The trip went OK. Of course, I had to go through 10 controls before I could board the plane. And of course, we got delayed at every possible occasion arriving in London 2 hours late. But that was still alright as I understand the situation and I was not in any kind of hurry except that my friend Rav was waiting for me at the airport in London.

It is when I went to get my bags that it all turned sour. I collected my two big bags but after waiting more than 30 minutes, I had to accept the truth, my small blag day pack had been mishandled and I would not see it coming out of the conveyor belt today.

So I filed a complain with BA and am waiting for them to locate it. Hopefully they do it fast because loosing the pictures of my trip would suck big time :(.

On a side note. Heathrow is a big mess with tens of flights cancelled and thousands of people stranded. The departure level parking lot looked more like a refugee camp than an airport parking lot with heavy security, people lining up under the rain in order to get in the terminal and distribution of water bottles and prepared food. I hope it gets better by Thursday or I might have to find another way back to San Francisco.


According to my initial plan of 5 months ago, today I was flying to London to spend a week meeting some friends before flying back to San Francisco on the 17th.

Well, as often, the plan did not work out as expected. As I arrived at the airport, I was greeted by a screen showing that all the flights to London had been cancelled!

The only explanation I got for a while was that Heathrow had been closed for the day by the BAA and I had to book another flight. So I queued in the very long line leading to the BA sales counters and started waiting in order to reschedule.

After discussing with other passengers and through two interviews (yes, I am that on demand!) with journalists from BBC and Le Figaro that were gravitating around the queue with tens of others, I finally understood that the British government had closed the airport following fears of a terrorist attack.

1 hour had passed and I had only progressed 20 meters in the 100 meter long line. It was worst than the lines at the Buzz Lightyear attraction at Disneyland or at the Eiffel Tower some days before! The reason was that there were only 2 BA associates to help the hundreds of stranded passengers so it could not go any faster. For their discharge, it does not seem like they are equipped to do any better.

Some very nice Paris Airport employees were on duty to help the passengers distributing bottles of water and giving British Airways reservation line and Eurostar reservation line phone numbers. Too bad they did not have more information to provide us though. Still, most of the people were calm (and resigned?).

After seeing a guy bound to New York (that was holding every possible gold membership card of every possible airline) get transferred on another flight and a family bound to Montreal get rescheduled for Saturday morning, both after calling the BA reservation line, I thought I could also give it a try. Not having any cellphone, I tried to use one of the public phone but it turned out the phone number was not toll-free so I had to give up that option and thought it should not be that long before I get to the window. 

Strike that! 3 hours since I arrived at the airport and I had only progressed 40 meters in the now 150 meter long line (how much I had left to do is left as an exercise to the reader). To make matters worst, one of the airport employees came around telling us there would not be any flights to London today so I should better just go back home and call the reservation line from there.

Well, I thought it was not a bad idea and made my way back home. $160 poorer but safe.

From there, I managed to reschedule my flight for Saturday morning. On the bright side, I have two more days to be with my parents and enjoy Paris.

And if you wonder why I am still going to London, you can read what I think of terrorism on a piece I wrote previously about Dahab.

A Cure to My Addiction

I am back in Paris after a lot of time spent in airports and airplanes. So much so that I don’t feel like seeing any of them for a little while!

I had a very interesting discussion with Libby, a vegetarian Jewish Canadian woman expatriated in Senegal, on the plane between Kayseri and Istanbul. We were able to have a calm discussion about the situation in Lebanon and the way people react about it in Israel where she spent a week before joining her brother in Turkey.

The rest of the trip was uneventful if not boring as I had to wait a long time in Istanbul.

The only bad thing about the trip is that I somehow manage to break the LCD screen of my camera. I don’t know when and how it happened. I just know that once in Paris, when I turned the camera on to show some pictures to my very good friend Mathieu (that is kindly hosting me every time I am in Paris), the LCD was broken!

It is very annoying though as I cannot set anything on the camera anymore and it is difficult to take pictures now. Also, I had this camera on my pants pocket for more than 4 months and I break it the last day of the trip!

This is actually the good thing about it. Glad it did not happen earlier as it would have been very annoying. Also, I did not loose the pictures in the camera and it seems like everything else is working. I looked a bit on the web and I can get a spare LCD for a reasonable price once I am back in the states.

The bad thing, of course, is that I will not be able to take pictures in the next month or so.

Thinking about it and looking at the bright side… This is a sure way to get over my addiction ;).

They Just Don’t Get It

Sometimes people don’t get it.

Let me explain what I mean. Yesterday, I was looking at how I would go from Athens to Istanbul. Taking a ferry back to Turkey was my first idea since it did not cost me too much the first time and I liked the idea of stopping at another island on the way.

Because I did not know which ferries to take, I thought I would stop by at a travel agency to ask about my options and get help booking the ferries. I guess that was a mistake!

I found a place located close to Athens’ main square. Unfortunately I was not received very well. The clerk was very tense from the moment I entered. When I asked her how I could get to Turkey by ferry, she said she could get me a ferry to one of the islands and then I would have to book the ticket from that island to Turkey by myself.

That is fine, however when I started asking about how to book the second ticket, the agent became plain rude and sharply responded that she was not tourist information and I should know how to get where I wanted!

Well, I understand if she did not have the information, but man why be rude about it. Furthermore, if I knew what ferry to take and simply wanted to book a ticket, I could just use the internet and not the services of a travel agent. I think in our new age of Internet, travel agents must offer more than just booking services to be competitive. Information and help is expected and good service is essential. During my trip I have dealt with many agents that have gotten the idea, but it looks like this lady has not.

Anyway, I told her she must be having a bad day and just left. This shop was not going to get my money! The not so funny part was today when I happened to be passing by the shop again. I heard the same lady having a fit and yelling at the other employees. Everybody just looked miserable. Then, a tourist walked in asking for help completing a transaction she had initiated on the internet. The lady refused to help this tourist in any way, even though there were no other clients and the 4 clerks were idle, since they were not going to make any money from it. If you ask for my opinion, helping the tourist would have been a sure way for them to make themselves a good name. I just wonder how these guys are staying in business.

At the end, I logged into the internet and booked a flight from Athens to Istanbul with Olympic Airways for later today. It is fast and I don’t have to deal with any travel agent :).

Not Getting the Hype

One thing I have been looking forward to doing in Turkey is a Blue Cruise. Rod was the first to tell me about it recalling how much fun he had doing one last year. A Blue Cruise is a kind of cruise on board of a Turkish gullet along the Mediterranean or Aegean coasts.

I booked mine while I was in Antalya for 4 days/3 nights departing from Olympos arriving in Fethiye. This Cruise seems to be the one favored by most backpackers and it is also easy to find a cabin on one of the charter boats that cruise this way.

I was departing from Olympos and since the guidebook and some other people were raving about it, I decided to go to Olympos earlier in order to check it out. I had planned to arrive the day before, but because my tour of Aspendos, Perge and Side ended late, I decided to wait until the morning so that I could catch the last 1st round game of France. So I arrived here yesterday morning.

Well, it was probably a good thing.

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Olympos is composed of pensions organized around a main dirt road leading to the ancient site of Olympos and its famous beach. The pensions usually offer tree houses and wood cabins with shared bathrooms and showers, as well as restaurants, bars and sometimes nightclubs. It is definitely a backpacker’s hangout with a mixed international and Turkish young crowd ready to party hard. It has a bit of a feel of Dahab actually and you could say it is close to what Dahab was 5-10 years ago. The restaurants have cushioned areas just like in Dahab and you can even spot some cats too!

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The comparison for me stops here though. Unlike in Dahab, I did not really get hooked. The beach is great looking but it is a pebble beach and I don’t really like pebble beaches (it hurts my feet ;)). And except for swimming, there is not much else to do. The ruins have not been restored and are not maintained either. I was quite disappointed.

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The only interesting thing to see might be the Chimera flames not too far away which you can visit in an evening tour. You reach the flames after a 20 minutes hike in the dark. It is quite fascinating to know the flames have been there for thousands of years. They are weaker than they used to be but still going. If you extinguish them, new ones re-ignite seconds later.

After that, the only thing left to do was drinking a lot and getting pissed. I think I am over that so it did not cut it for me. I guess I am becoming too old for these kinds of things!

Even so, it was only when the whole pension became muddy in the evening, after water spilled in between the cabins, making walking around not so inviting, that I was set on my not so crazy opinion of this spot. Still, people are very friendly and the place does have a nice hippie feel to it.

I am quite happy to have stayed only one night though and to leave now for my cruise. Hoping to have a lot of fun.